Van Life: How to Make Your Van More Efficient
You may have spent summer months road tripping in an RV, or packing up the tent every weekend and could use a new way to explore.
Enter the modern camper van.
These outfitted vans, which are taking over many social media feeds with the #vanlife hashtag, have some attractive features that approach glamping. There are also options that take a more minimalistic approach, if you’re looking to unplug when you head into nature.
With the recent popularity of van life, it can seem like a new fad. But long before Mercedes Sprinter vans there was the Volkswagen Bus, and before that America has a history of putting the conveniences of home in a mobile unit.
Tricked out custom van companies were started by Buffalo, N.Y. firm Touring Landau in 1910 – driven of course by the family chauffeur. Henry Ford and his friends Thomas Edison, John Burroughs and Harvey Firestone were some of the original #vanlife influencers, known as the Four Vagabonds for their custom Ford vehicle jaunts into the wilderness.
These days you can follow in their legendary footsteps with your own adventure.
Where to Go in the West in Co-op Country
The first rule of real estate also applies when choosing where to travel, whether you’re journeying to a site to stay, or letting the road trip be the attraction.
If your goal is to see the changing colors of fall, there are so many beautiful places to see in each state Tri-State and our members serve. Consider a jaunt along a leg of the Lincoln Highway Scenic Byway in western Nebraska, or head further west into Wyoming’s rugged landscape to find the perfect place to park. Driving through the mountains in September and October can show you why folks refer to Colorful Colorado or the Land of Enchantment in New Mexico.
There are many national parks across these areas, too. Use a smartphone app like Campendium to find a camping spot, or Wikiloc to plan your hike or locate a mountain biking trail. If you’re looking for a place to park overnight along the way, iOverlander or The Vanlife App can point you in the right direction. There are also van life apps available for a lot of other needs you could have along the way.
Renting a Camper or RV
Not ready to commit to a van just yet? Luckily, they’re available to rent, much like regular RVs. You can find one near you by searching for camper van rentals, or calling a local RV rental or dealer.
Electric versions of the camper van aren’t widely available yet, but RV manufacturers are working to increase the mileage range of these electric options.
#VanLife Necessities for the Road
The point of loading up a van is to get out into nature, and maybe get disconnected. That doesn’t mean you have to leave behind all the comforts or conveniences of home. Pick up some of these (mainly) electric accessories to elevate your van experience.
Your van’s battery can run most of your small electronics, like a phone charger. However, if you plan on using any device that plugs into a 120-volt AC wall outlet, your van will need an inverter. This device converts the DC electricity in your van’s battery to a AC current strong enough to power your laptop, blender or stovetop.
While propane heaters and cooktops are available, they can also pose a safety hazard if used without proper ventilation. For a safer cooking option, consider an electric infrared burner. The versatility of this type of cooking device means you won’t be stuck with a soggy cookspace outside when it rains.
If you plan to take off for an extended trip, you may need to do a load of laundry while you’re out. Save on laundromats – or save yourself the headache of finding one – with a hand-crank washing device like the WonderWash Portable Washing Machine. It may sound labor intensive but it’s easy to use and lightweight. Just hang your clothes to dry.
Fuel-based cooking sources like propane cause condensation in vans, which can mean water damage for interiors. There are a variety of electric cooktops available that are built for a van’s small counter space. Small 600-watt microwaves are also an option for cooking on the road.
A Garmin InReach can keep you, well, within reach of help in an emergency. This two-way satellite communicator is good if you’re truly going off the grid to get into nature.
USB chargeable and stick-up lights are always good to have around for those middle-of-the-night snack raids.
These camping gadgets would also come in handy for your van adventures.
Going All-in on the Van Lifestyle
If you’re sold on the #vanlife lifestyle, there are options from gutting, renovating and remodeling an old van, to fully custom builds from specialty companies.
Maybe you just want to scroll through the beautiful photographs from others’ outings on social media platforms like Instagram. There are plenty of options for that as well, as more and more of us head out onto the road this fall.
Tri-State is a not-for-profit cooperative of 45 members, including 42 member utility electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts in four states, that together deliver reliable, affordable, and responsible power to more than a million electricity consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the West.